When my husband Jim lost his courageous battle with Pancreatic Cancer just over two years ago, our three children were in second, fifth, and eighth grades. Like everyone’s journey through life, ours too remains unique. Unmarked roads, bumpy terrain and detours persist along the journey, along with times of coasting. Neither the highs nor the lows can last forever.
The healing process continues, and the lessons about love and life are constant. Following Jim’s inspirational example, we have chosen, both individually and collectively as a family, to make our situation shape us to be better not bitter.
Don’t rush the process and do what is best for YOU and your family
One of the most important things I’ve learned along the way is that you can’t rush the process of healing or that of finding your new normal. If you don’t allow yourself to feel the despair, anger, or sadness that comes in waves while grieving the loss of a loved one, you risk being blindsided later down the road. It’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to feel any way you do at any given time because you need to “go through it” to GET through it. The emotions that creep in causing great discomfort need to be acknowledged.
Admittedly, finding the new normal for my family has taken longer than I had first anticipated. But by allowing the process to unfold as it needs to and all in due time, I get up and most days can look in the mirror and say with confidence, “We got this.” I said most days. There are many days I struggle with any number of things or need to seek advice in areas that are not my forte. But what has made a difference for me is to become increasingly comfortable with the idea that it is OK to do what I think is best for me or for my family and not to worry what others may think or feel about my decisions. After all, this isn’t their journey. As with anything, what works for one may not work for another.
I absolutely love the quote, “Don’t judge my actions without understanding my reasons.” Good advice for everyone to remember regarding those around us. After all, do any of us truly understand another’s situation? I once viewed doing what is best for me as selfish at times, but with all aspects of life, there is a time and place for everything. In this particular situation, if the healing process and journey to figure out our new normal is working for me and my children, my children are thriving and so am I, then that trumps all things at the moment.
Moving forward with baby steps and the occasional leap
We continue to move forward together while keeping Jim’s memory alive. Though his time with us was brief, Jim taught our children so many things that will stay with them forever. Our faith continues to grow and we are open to the Godwinks that remind us he isn’t very far away. Recognizing our countless blessings reminds each of us that we will be OK.
I rejoice in the days that move like clockwork, and regroup on the days when being a single parent weighs heavy on my shoulders. Looking to the future is important, and I realistically plan ahead, but I’ve become more accustomed to just taking one week at a time. I am mindful to take care of ME if I am to continue taking care of our three brave and amazing children.
The journey has taught me that sheer will and determination can alter any outcome; if not forever, then at least for a little bit. Whether it’s a baby step forward, sideways, or the occasional leap, I celebrate the fact it wasn’t backwards. We know we are blessed to be here living this life together wrapped in the love and support of those around us and Jim forever in our hearts.
There is much left to be discovered and disappointments to move beyond. But there are successes and victories that await celebrations as well. And through it all I remember the words of Pope Francis, “Have the courage to be truly happy.”
“Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.”
Karen Zickes is the mom of three amazing children and a freelance writer who
resides in Holland, OH.